Appoquinimink students will move to remote learning Monday

MIDDLETOWN — Appoquinimink School District students will begin remote learning Monday, the school board decided Thursday in an emergency meeting. 

The decision comes hours following the governor’s stay-at-home announcement which advised that school leaders suspend hybrid learning in mid-December through Jan. 11. While Gov. Carney suggested school buildings close during that period, it is a local decision: if schools feel they can continue to operate in hybrid, they can continue to do so. 

Appoquinimink’s school board voted 3-2, with board members Kelly Wright and Richard Forsten dissenting, to move to virtual learning Monday. The board is scheduled to meet next Tuesday for its regular meeting, where it will be able to discuss the decision in more detail. 

The district reported 38 staff and 95 student positive cases of COVID-19, cumulatively.  Those numbers, Superintendent Matt Burrows said, are manageable for the district. The problem, however, is the amount of people quarantining.

The district has had 154 staff and 563 students that have quarantined since Appoquinimink began offering in-person classes in October.

“We’re at a point operationally where it’s very difficult for us to operate,” Dr. Burrows said.

The district has 177 substitutes signed up, with 75 willing to come to class.

“Those are maxed out,” he said. “We have had our related arts teachers, our paraprofessionals, our interventionists, we’ve had our administrators in covering classes for teachers. We’re at a point where we don’t have people to cover classes as we move forward and it’s causing a stress on the system.”

Dr. Burrows also emphasized the level of cases in the Middletown area.

“If you look at the map, the Middletown area is a hotbed for the coronavirus right now. We stand out on the map,” he said. “We like to stand out in Middletown, Townsend, Odessa, but this is not something that we definitely want to stand out in.”

Appoquinimink’s decision comes on the heels of a tumultuous week for education amid coronavirus, which was capped off Thursday with Gov. Carney’s announcement. 

Earlier Thursday evening, Smyrna also announced its intentions to go virtual Monday and to resume in-person instruction Monday, Jan. 11. 

“These days since March 13 have been so, so tough for all of us. You have all been with us when we moved to virtual instruction last year on a moment’s notice. You have been with us through the summer as we all worked to plan for a new school year. You have been with us as we rolled into hybrid, one grade configuration at a time,” Smyrna Superintendent Patrik Williams wrote in a letter to families. “And you have been with us right up through today. For that, I am personally and incredibly grateful. We are Smyrna strong.”

Thursday’s announcement is a reversal for the governor, who earlier this week said schools should continue offering hybrid instruction despite Kent County’s data moving into the “red” phase (meaning data indicated there was significant community spread). The data prompted several districts to press pause on hybrid instruction in Kent. 

Earlier this week, Capital opted to go remote until at least Monday, Jan. 4. Caesar Rodney voted to move to remote until next Wednesday, and the school board will determine a path forward.

Milford elected to resume its hybrid learning after a brief pause (though Milford High remained closed Thursday after a positive case). On Thursday, Milford officials said this weekend the district would “evaluate the best course of action operationally for Milford High School for next week and the period of time from Dec. 14 through Jan. 11, which the state has recommended for schools to operate in a full remote learning model.”

Lake Forest’s school board is scheduled to meet Friday at 3:30 p.m. to discuss the governor’s recommendation.

Helpful Coronavirus links

Delaware Division of Health Coronavirus Page
CDC: About the Coronavirus Disease 2019
CDC: What to do if You Are Sick
Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center
AP News Coronavirus Coverage
Reopening Delaware: Resources for Businesses
Delaware Phase 2 guidance

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